News / Africa

Goma Airport Still Closed

People displaced by recent fighting in eastern Congo wait to receive aid food in Mugunga IDP camp outside of Goma, November 24, 2012.People displaced by recent fighting in eastern Congo wait to receive aid food in Mugunga IDP camp outside of Goma, November 24, 2012.
x
People displaced by recent fighting in eastern Congo wait to receive aid food in Mugunga IDP camp outside of Goma, November 24, 2012.
People displaced by recent fighting in eastern Congo wait to receive aid food in Mugunga IDP camp outside of Goma, November 24, 2012.
Nick Long
Aid agencies are calling for a key airport in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo to be reopened as soon as possible.  The airport at Goma was shut down by fighting two weeks ago but a United Nations official suggests it could now be reopened if the security arrangements are kept simple.  
 
Having no working airport would be serious for any city of nearly a million people.  For a city with 140,000 displaced people living around it and ongoing military activity the closure could cost lives if vital supplies cannot be flown in quickly.

Most aid to Goma comes by road and the borders are still open, but some medical and food supplies have to come by air.  United Nations agencies have appealed to the M23 rebels controlling Goma to let aid flights land there.

"We have had formal discussions with M23 to ask them to let the airport open," explained Barbara Shenstone, who heads the DRC office of OCHA, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  "The airport is important for vital medical supplies, and to be able to bring people in and out."

Shenstone told VOA that the M23 said it was willing to open the airport and was in discussions with the U.N. stabilization mission MONUSCO over how this would work.  MONUSCO still has troops at the airport, who blocked M23's attempts to capture it.

But talks at the regional level in Uganda's capital appear to be causing delays.  A regional proposal is on the table to station a mixed force at Goma airport consisting of contingents from M23, the Congolese army and a neutral country.

"I think it's got slightly complicated by the agreement that was reached in Kampala where there were different arrangements proposed for the airport and the possibility of a small international force.  That has kind of stalled the opening of the airport," she said.

Aid workers restarted food distributions to displaced people in and around Goma this week.  Some 81,000 out of an estimated 140,000 displaced people in the area received food rations for three days, and regular blanket distributions are planned.

The U.N. humanitarian office says the rations are tailored to immediate needs, as many people may soon go home to their villages, where harvesting should now be taking place.  

In the past, rebel movements in Congo's North Kivu province have ordered displaced people to go home.  Shenstone said the U.N. would advise against any such policy.

"It's true that the M23 generally doesn't think that camps are a good idea, and they may have ideas about this.  But as the humanitarian community we would discourage them from any attempt to forcibly move people.  It's not right.  You could be forcing people into further distress or danger.  The whole idea of forcible returns is just a very bad one," she said.

Aid workers have been under pressure in Congo.  After the fall of Goma, international aid workers were targeted by protesters and rioters in several cities.  In one city, Bunia, expatriates were chased out of their houses, had their homes looted and their cars wrecked.  

But the head of OCHA in DRC says these outbreaks of violence should be put in perspective.

"Humanitarians in eastern Congo are often in danger.  In North Kivu in the last six months there have been 162 incidents recorded where non-governmental organizations [NGOs] were attacked on the road or had their goods stolen.  Has there been an upsurge of this in the last two weeks?  No.  The real immediate danger NGOs face is being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, the same danger the population faces," said Shenstone.

The humanitarian appeal for DRC for 2012 was for $791 million and with the year nearly over that appeal is only 60 percent funded. Shenstone told VOA that the country is in a state of chronic crisis but she said it doesn't have the same weight with donors as other conflagrations such as Syria or Afghanistan, or the same strategic interest.

While a truce appears to be holding for the moment, the OCHA head of office in Congo predicts that violence will continue to flare up unless the country's deep, underlying problems are addressed.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Arkansas, North Carolina have approved similar laws that gay-marriage opponents say help maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More